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PAC is a university-prison partnership and integration with the university is key to our work. Faculty lead each chapter and teach Service Learning courses in which students and faculty collaboratively facilitate in-prison programming. Faculty also lend their expertise to research, mentoring, marketing, and special projects. A majority of PAC faculty and students are from departments of Art and Design but we also collaborate with disciplines including Communication Studies, Sociology, Music and Dance, Psychology, English, and Criminal Justice. University students are central to our work and PAC engages undergraduate and graduate students and alumni as interns and teaching assistants. A majority of students are from the California State University system but we have welcomed interns from out of state, including from North Carolina State University and Bennington College.


PAC is dedicated to supporting the next generation of teaching artists both in and out of prison. PAC's mission is to expand access to the arts in correctional and community settings and simultaneously grow meaningful jobs in the field for historically marginalized people. ​

The PAC model grows out of integrated art practice and includes art making, art history, and reflection in each class along with the cultivation of a safe space. Our teacher training relies on mutual learning and apprenticeship, with opportunities for students, alumni, faculty, and justice-impacted individuals to learn from one another. Our training and education consists of the following modalities: 

  • Orientation for new PAC members

  • Service Learning course for CSU students

  • Teacher Training for fellows, interns, and staff

  • Facilitator Training for incarcerated participants


Our comprehensive teaching manual shares our collaborative planning and teaching methodology, the specific needs and requirements of teaching in correctional settings, facts about the justice system, and support for engaging learners in the arts. The manual is available to all members that participate in the Teacher Training. An expanded version of the manual, with additional information on the foundations of art and art history and content specific to peer teachers who are currently incarcerated, is available for everyone enrolled in our Facilitator Training course in correctional institutions.


This innovative collaboration grows directly out of our work with participants who are incarcerated, specifically at the California Institution for Men, where the peer leaders began and developed a set of bylaws. Peer Leaders support PAC's teaching team through helping to monitor supplies, assisting teachers in classes, encouraging new participants, and more. This provides unique leadership opportunities for incarcerated participants while lending the teaching team support from people with experiential knowledge of the institution.


The Peer Leaders program inspired our Arts Facilitator Training, an extensive 60-hour training and 3-month apprenticeship for incarcerated artists seeking to become facilitators. For those that are incarcerated, this longer training offers university-level content in the arts and education, space for shared dialogue and reflection, and opportunities to develop and practice teaching skills. At the culmination of the training, peer facilitators develop and lead a multidisciplinary art program at the prison with PAC mentorship.

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Photos by Peter Merts

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